Hard Times

It is no secret that the harp is universally known as a symbol of the Irish. It is also no secret that the Irish have a very sad history. Before the Irish were seen as uncivilized, harps and their musicians were seen as high society status symbols. They were a keystone of society. The ballad The Harp that once through Tara’s Halls tells the sad story of how the harp went from being a sign of high status to outside society to being degraded along with the Irish race. The poem starts with the times when pubs would be filled with the melody of the harp and the people celebrating it. Then it takes us to the present to show us that this is no longer how it is. Now the harp is seen as a reminder of the suffering of their people. This is evident through the solemn tone. Originally, societies saw the harp and thought of it as a beautiful thing. Then, the world started to view the Irish people as barbaric. With the harp being associated with the Irish people, its status declined as theirs did. Traditionally, music of the harp was played for celebration and gathering to fill the room with joy. After the horrible suffering of the Irish, music of the harp has been transformed into tunes of despair. This is what the melody is talking about in the second part. The tale of how the Irish used to be filled with pride and have now been reduced to pain and suffering is truly heartbreaking. The melody is expressing this heartbreak through images of a broken harp and the broken melody that it now plays. It even shows us the worn out people that play the harp while associating it with the pain and hardships that their people have endured. One might also consider the way the author structured the melody. It is written with a diction that gives us small, but powerful glances into the lives of someone during that time period.

-Oliver Briggs

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